My Turn on the Other Side of the Desk

Prior to moving to São Paulo I started taking Portuguese lessons, one on one, with a Brazilian expat living in New York.  I established a rapport with my teacher and enjoyed both his great explanations of grammar as well as his overall approachability and cross cultural insight.  So, when I finally arrived in Brazil, even though I was surrounded by roughly 21 million Portuguese speakers, I decided to continue having lessons with my tutor in New York via Skype. Between my lessons and forced practice in taxis and coffee shops, my Portuguese skills and appreciation for the language quickly developed. What I did not expect was for my understanding of and appreciation for my LogicPrep students to develop as well; however, this is exactly what happened! As a student taking personalized lessons with an instructor over Skype in my third language, I’ve come to develop a unique insight into what it means to be a student again. In a strange and unexpected sense, I’ve been having my own LogicPrep experience in parallel with my students. Here are a couple takeaways from my experience as a renewed student:

Progress isn’t linear

While I often tell my students that learning and achievement is not always linear, or that we “learn in plateaus,” I’ve had some trouble internalizing my own advice. Some days I feel like I speak Portuguese and am on my way to being a true Paulistano, while on other days I feel like Portuguese will always be outside my gringo grasp. Part of the learning process is simply staying the course-- working hard regardless of what the immediate path of progress looks like. As I tell me students, “it doesn’t matter what the day to day looks like as long as the trend is upwards.”

It is crucial to do homework

This is a realization that I’m a bit embarrassed about. I have to admit that on occasion I haven’t completed all my Portuguese homework, or, more commonly, I’ve completed my homework in the hour or so prior to my lesson- after all, I’ve had to fit homework in with working and exploring a new city! My renewed experience with homework has been a double edged sword. First, I now truly empathize with students who have jam packed schedules and must find a way to fit extra ACT work in alongside their normal school work. However, second, I’ve also come to appreciate how important it is to engage with material outside of class. Only by reviewing vocabulary on a nightly basis have I been able to incorporate new words into my conversational Portuguese. 

Motivation is everything

The reality is that learning, at least in the abstract, is not always exactly fun. However, there is a special satisfaction is finding a personal motivation for learning. While in São Paulo I’ve found this motivation in making new Brazilian friends and venturing on weekend trips. Plus, it helps that it is very rare to hear English spoken on the streets of São Paulo. In the same vein, I love working with students when they return from a college visit in the US-when they’re motivated and ready to work!

Overall, this experience has made me more excited than ever for our students. It has been an amazing experience to immerse myself in Brazilian culture while meeting new people and learning a new language. I can only imagine how eye opening it will be when my students get to do the same for 4 years at college!